PERU — A 12-year-old Peru girl charged with setting her mother’s bed on fire in November pleaded guilty to an arson charge during an appearance in Miami County Circuit Court Wednesday.

After the five-minute hearing, the girl’s attorney, D.J. Bolinger, said his client admitted to the arson charge, but not to the charge of attempted murder.

A disposition hearing has been set for Feb. 7 before Circuit Court Judge Rosemary Higgins-Burke, at which time a sentence will be imposed.

Bolinger said the girl is being detained at the Robert J. Kinsey Youth Center in Kokomo.

The girl engaged in light-hearted conversation with family members outside the courtroom prior to the hearing.

Because the girl is a juvenile and does not face adult charges, the Kokomo Tribune will not publish her name.

Miami County Prosecutor Eric Huneryager said to his knowledge the girl’s two younger siblings are still in the custody of their mother.

Indiana Family and Child Services is continuing to evaluate the family, he said.

“We don’t know for sure what will transpire at the disposition hearing,” Bolinger said of any court ordered sentence. “The family is pleased with the direction the case is taking.”

Huneryager said the juvenile will be sentenced on the arson charge and not on the attempted murder charge.

“By not pursuing the murder charge, it may help her later on,” Huneryager said. “My belief is that she will be placed in a residential treatment facility.”

In a juvenile case, there is a full range of alternatives when it comes to treatment and punishment, regardless of the severity of the crime, Huneryager said.

Judge Higgins-Burke ordered the girl’s detention in November because, by law, she is believed to be a delinquent child if she committed an act that would be a Class A felony (attempted murder) and a Class B felony (arson endangering human life).

The girl is accused of setting her mother’s bed on fire sometime before 5 a.m. Nov. 27 because of a dispute over the number of chores she was given.

The mother told investigators with the Indiana State Police Peru Post that she awoke when she felt heat on her feet and found the bed on fire. The mother then discovered her three children and car were missing and called 911.

A Miami County Sheriff's deputy contacted the girl on her mother’s cellular telephone and persuaded her to stop the car containing her 6-year-old sister and 8-year-old brother near the intersection of Howard County Roads 300 East and 500 North.

Ken de la Bastide can be reached at (765) 454 -8580 or via e-mail at ken.delabastide@kokomotribune.com

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